At some point in our lives we have experienced the joys of being outside. Whether it be an outside BBQ or a brisk hike in the woods, spending time outside leaves us feeling better in a number of ways. As a person who spends most of his life outside, I have seen and experienced Nature improving my life daily. Here is a (very) brief list of some specific benefits I have noticed.
1. Your ego drops away.
Bills, drama, worries, anxiety, self doubt, you know all that normal brain activity, it tends to revolve around one person: YOU. This ego based thinking keeps US at the center of the universe. Everything we do and see in life is based on ME.
However, when we develop a relationship with the wild things, we realize that we are not the center of the universe. That no matter what we do or what we think, Nature continues on. Long before we got here and long after we will be gone, Nature will continue to be.
This concept might make you feel uneasy. That’s ok. That’s just your ego being upset. This shift from an EGO-centric viewpoint to an ECO-centric viewpoint allows us to see and act outside of our small self-centered universe. It’s very freeing.
2. It’s healthy to get dirty.
More and more research shows that being dirty (playing in the dirt and consuming small amounts of dirt from fresh veggies) is healthy for us. In one tablespoon of soil there are more living organisms (microbes) than there are humans on Earth! Those tiny microbes help us develop our immune system which fights against things like allergies, viruses, and disease. Studies have also shown that kids who have exposure to non-sterile environments grow up with better immune systems, as well.
Furthermore, one specific microbe, Mycobacterium vaccae has been shown to interact with human neurons the same way the antidepressant prescription drug Prozac does. Basically it’s Nature’s happy medicine! Go play in the dirt and try some!
3. You see the interconnectedness.
“We are all connected.” We’ve heard this adage so many times in life, and sometimes it just feels like mystical hodge podge. However, when you have a consistent outdoor connection you see that interconnectedness at work. That old food you composted leads way to new sprouts. The twigs you pruned in your backyard become the home for some nesting robins. All of a sudden, you see how connected we are and how “I cannot be without you, and you cannot be without me.”
4. You reset your rhythms.
Our bodies are highly connected with the natural rhythms of the Earth. Your body’s circadian rhythms are connected to metabolism, brain function, and cell activity (among other things). Of course, many of us are circadian scrambled because of bright computer screens, plane travel, stress, and unnatural light.
However, just one week in the wilderness without artificial light can reset your circadian rhythms and get you back on track!
5. You appreciate what you have.
It only takes a few hours without all the comforts of life to realize how much you do have. One of my favorite things about spending extended periods of time in the wild is coming back to a nice bed, pizza, and showers. It’s good to get a regular reminder that most of us in this world are truly blessed with so many modern conveniences that the large majority of the world doesn’t get.
6. You speed up your body…
Most of us don’t move enough. Being outside allows us to do more moving and less sitting. For many of us our bodies are full of energy but the energy becomes stuck and rigid because we sit for too long and our muscles become tight and inflexible.
Get outside! Hike, build, climb trees, play a game with your kids! DO ANYTHING! Duh!
7. …and slow your mind down
The ol’ monkey brain. Constant thoughts, scattered thinking, worry, replaying scenarios in our minds. If we don’t take moments out of our busy daily lives to stop and slow down, we become ADHD robots, hustling from one job to the next.
Embrace the speed of nature. Slow down and move more like an Oak, or a ladybug, or maybe even a rock. Things will unfold as they will.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” -Lao Tzu
Obviously this list is not complete. More and more research is being published about the necessity of getting outside on a daily basis for emotional and physical health.
I think we all know and feel the difference of a life lived outside. We have all felt it before. Instead of just viewing “outside time” as a treat or something to do only on vacation, what if, instead, we treated it more like eating veggies or going to yoga class: something we consistently need in our lives to stay healthy and balanced.
Or even a step further, what if we based our life on being outside and figured everything else around that? What would that feel like? That would be something. Wouldn’t it?
Want to get outside?
Join Luke McLaughlin at Holistic Survival School in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina. Holistic Survival School’s aim is to help people connect to themselves, their community, and the Natural world. Luke has dedicated his life to learning and teaching ancestral, Earth-skills. His style is welcoming, funny, and engaging. Luke has mentored hundreds of people in the wild, and you might have seen his butt cheeks on the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid XL.